How did the new piston aircraft deliveries compare in 2017 versus 2016? Which OEMs improved, and what were the undercurrents in the General Aviation market? Mike Potts investigates GAMA’s Year-End shipment report…
Finishing the year with a total of 1,085 units, the piston market did somewhat better than the 1,035-1,045 unit forecast we predicted for 2017.
Of the 15 companies reporting single-engine piston deliveries to GAMA in this report, five were up for the year, seven were down, three were even and one was new to the report with no prior record. For just Q4 2017, six were up, seven were down and two were even.
Significantly, the strongest three players in the piston market were all up for both Q4 and the full year.
The Single Piston Market
#1 - Cirrus: The runaway leader in the single engine piston deliveries sector was Cirrus with 355 units, up from 317 a year ago (+11.99%). For Q4 Cirrus was up from 91 in 2016 to 119 in 2017 (a gain 30.77%).
#2 - Cessna: In distant second place was Cessna with a still-very-respectable total of 238 units, up from 217 a year ago. That’s a healthy gain of 9.68%. For the fourth quarter Cessna was up from 90 units in 2016 to 98 in 2017, representing a very strong and encouraging Q4 surge of 41.18% last year.
#3 - Piper: Coming in third place, Piper made 90 shipments, up from 80 the year before (a gain of 12.5%). For Q4, Piper’s sales totaled 35 units, giving a year-end surge of 38.89%, which, although not as strong as Cessna’s, was a very respectable total.
Based on these numbers one would conclude that the piston market is in excellent shape today. But looking past the top three, the picture is a little less pretty.
#4 - Diamond: In fourth place is Diamond Aircraft with 68 deliveries, matching the prior year’s total. For the quarter, however, Diamond’s results were down from 22 aircraft in Q4 2016 to 14 in Q4 2017. Thus Diamond experienced what amounted to negative surge, with just 20.59% of its annual deliveries coming in the Q4. In Diamond’s defense, as we shall see shortly, the twin-engine sales soared.
#5 - Tecnam: Following Diamond in fifth place was Italian manufacturer Tecnam with 60 units, down from 86 a year ago. For Q4 Tecnam was down from 17 units in 2016 to 13 in 2017.
#6 - Extra: Next was Extra with 25 shipments, down slightly from 27 the year before. For Q4, Extra was also down from seven units to six.
#7 - Cubcrafter: Not far behind in seventh place was Cubcrafter with 20, up 100% from the 10 it reported last year.
#8 - Pipestral: Trailing just behind Cubcrafter was new market entrant Pipestral, which reported 19 deliveries and eight occurring in Q4. However, GAMA reported no total for Pipestral in 2016.
#9 - American Champion: Reporting 15 units (down from 19 the year before), American Champion benefitted from a 40% Q4 2017 surge, totaling six units for the period.
#10 - Textron’s Beechcraft: Some well-known names were well down the piston singles list, including Textron’s Beechcraft unit with 13 units, down from 25 a year ago. That total included four in the Q4 2017 (down from nine in Q4 2016). The only model in Beechcraft’s single line is the iconic Bonanza, which has been in continuous production since 1947. With numbers this low, one wonders how long Bonanza production will continue.
#11 - Mooney: Another well-known name is Mooney with seven units, matching its prior year total. Mooney was actually up for Q4 2017 at three units, ahead of the two it reported last year. Unlike Beechcraft, Mooney has Chinese ownership that appears willing to accept production at these levels, at least for a while.
#12-15 - AVIC, Mahindra, Waco, Maule: Other minor players in the single engine market include AVIC (10, down from 15), Mahindra (nine both this year and last), Waco (six, down from seven), and Maule (two in 2016, but failed to report to GAMA for this report).
The Twin Piston Market
The piston twin category looked comparatively healthy as 2017 came to a close. All four entrants reported improved shipment numbers over the previous year.
#1 - Diamond: The leader in this segment with 69 units for the year (up from 64 last year) was Diamond, which also reported 16 shipments in the Q4 2017, up from 12 in Q4 2016. Interestingly, there is absolutely no Q4 surge in a market you would expect to see it. Just 23.19% of the shipments came in the final quarter.
#2 - Tecnam: Coming second in piston twin deliveries with 39 in 2017, versus 32 in 2016, was Tecnam. That included 11 in Q4 2017, which again amounted to no Q4 surge.
#3 - Beechcraft: Third place went to Beechcraft with 23 units, including 10 in Q4 (a surge representing 43.48% of annual deliveries).
#4 - Piper: Finally, Piper reported 18 shipments in 2017, up from 13 a year before. Piper was the only twin piston OEM whose Q4 numbers lagged the 2016’s numbers, down from seven to five units.
Overall then, there were plenty of positive points to enjoy in GAMA’s 2017 year-end piston aircraft shipment report. In 2017, piston aircraft sales finished 6.5% ahead of 2016 after a surprisingly strong Q4 finish. We’ll watch closely to see if the upward swing continues into Q1 2018.